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Bernard Shaw in Brazil

The Reception of Theatrical Productions, 1927–2013

Rosalie Rahal Haddad

In 1927, the first production of Pygmalion was staged in Brazil. At the time, over 65 per cent of the adult Brazilian population was illiterate, which makes it all the more surprising that directors and producers dared to stage such a controversial playwright – a writer who had often been rejected by the more sophisticated theatregoer in England.
This book analyses the reception of almost a century of Brazilian productions of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, Arms and the Man, Candida and Mrs Warren’s Profession, setting that analysis in the context of the political, economic and cultural climate at the time of each production. What emerges is a faithful portrait of a country where theatre and theatre criticism are precariously established, and the theatregoer with no knowledge of English cannot be certain that the translation or adaptation they are watching bears anything more than a passing resemblance to the original. Nonetheless, Brazil has also witnessed a number of fine productions, presented by highly skilled actors and directors and reviewed by well-informed and articulate critics.
As well as supplying fascinating detail on the wide range of Shaw productions staged in Brazil over the last ninety years, this volume also generates valuable insights into the complexities of twentieth-century Brazilian society.
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The present study examines the critical reception of Brazilian productions of four plays and a musical by George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950):

a)Pygmalion, first staged in London in 1914 and in Brazil in 1927 by the Cia. Italiana de Comédia Tatiana Pawlova [The Tatiana Pawlova Italian Comedy Company] and in 1928 by the Cia. Brasileira de Sainetes de Abigail-Roulien (The Abigail-Roulien Brazilian Sainete Company), the first play by Shaw to be staged in Brazil;

b)My Fair Lady, the musical adaptation of Pygmalion, first staged in New York (Broadway) in 1956 and in Brazil in 1962; although not of Shaw’s authorship it was the first foreign musical to be staged in Brazil, and was responsible for introducing Shaw’s name to the wider Brazilian public;

c)Arms and the Man, first staged in London in 1894 and in Brazil 1929; given the strongly negative reaction of the nineteenth-century English audience this production represents a useful opportunity to gauge the contrast with the play’s Brazilian reception;

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